What is the Court of Appeals?

In Washington State, there are four primary levels of courts (not including administrative courts). The four levels include Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, Superior Courts, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals is divided into three divisions within the State of Washington. As the map below demonstrates, Division Three includes all of the counties in Eastern Washington.

Division Three is divided into three districts. Judge Staab is running in District 1, which includes Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Lincoln Counties. There are five judges elected to Division Three for six-year terms, staggered so that the judges are not all up for election at the same time. Two judges are elected from Districts 1 and 2, and one judge is elected from District 3.

The Court of Appeals hears direct appeals from Superior courts and discretionary appeals from Courts of Limited Jurisdiction. Only about ten percent (10%) of the decisions by the Court of Appeals are accepted for review by the Washington State Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals hears approximately 350 cases a year. Of those, more than sixty percent (60+%) are criminal cases. The rest are divided between various civil issues.

In Division Three, most appeals are decided by a three-judge panel. Appellate decisions are based only on the record created in the lower court. The Court of Appeals does not hear testimony, consider new evidence, conduct trials, or decide facts. Instead, issues are presented to the Court through appellate briefs. The Court is generally asked to determine if a lower court made an error, and if so, whether that error requires the lower court’s decision to be overturned.